After my mini meltdown the flight went much more smoothly. Although I did cringe when they announced that the in-flight wi-fi wasn’t working and there would be no entertainment available through their app. Thankfully they reset the system and it did end up working about 30 minutes into the flight. Lily found a red stamp in her backpack (we still have no idea where it came from) and proceeded to stamp herself. I didn’t care what she did as long as she was quiet and happy, so I let her stamp her hands and arms until they were completely red. Desperate times. Once we got in the air she was able to put her tray table down and do some coloring. Then they fed us, which also helped kill time, and we read some books. Our flight left at noon, so a few hours in I figured she would be tired. She wasn’t really wanting to sleep so I put a movie on the laptop for her. After about 40 minutes in she told me she was tired and fell asleep. In the other rows Matthew and Caroline were happily playing with Baba and Daideo’s ipads and Brian kept Matthew entertained by listening to the in-flight music with headphones. He also loved looking at pictures on Brian’s phone. He did pretty well on the flight and slept for a little bit too. I think the kids each got about 2 hours of sleep. At one point Lily had to use the bathroom (for like the third time) and my friend Chris was sleeping, so I turned around and asked Brian if he could grab her and take her. He did, but that meant I had David and David did not like that. He started crying the instant Brian walked away, and nothing I did could get him to stop. Sorry Chris, I tried to let you sleep! I handed him off as soon as Brian got back and realized that the airplane was not going to be a bonding time for us. We could work on that when we got home and he wasn’t terrified.
The flight was surprisingly not that bad. Long, but not unbearable like the last one was. We landed in San Francisco just before 8am. We had arrived at the Hong Kong airport at 8am, so we were basically about to live the same four hour period again, just in a different airport. We got off the plane not a second too soon and headed to immigration and customs. I was very thankful for the one form that was required, not one per person. We couldn’t go through the line for citizens with my parents since we had David with us, so we headed over to the visitors line. I remembered that last time there was a separate line for new immigrants, but the man directing people didn’t think there was one. Once we had stood in line for a few minutes I spotted some canvas tape dividers that said new immigrants. Except I couldn’t figure out how to get there! The entire section was blocked off. I went back to the man and told him that I had found the line but didn’t know how to get to it, so he went and asked. Then he came back and escorted us right up to the window. Score! I handed over the sealed brown envelope I had been carrying since we left Guangzhou and all of our passports. The officer was so nice, and spoke English! Yippee! He processed all of our paperwork and set us free to claim our bags. Mom and Dad were already at baggage claim with a cart. All five of our bags arrived and then we went to recheck them through security and onto our remaining flights. Our layover in San Francisco was over 4 hours, and since we had already cleared customs and had time to spare we went to the United counter to see if we could get on an earlier flight. Our original itinerary had a two hour layover and I was worried that it would be too tight, but 4 hours was crazy long. It actually seemed like a possibility because there were two different early flights to Tampa, but when we got up to the counter and they asked if we had checked bags we were quickly shut down. I even asked if we could just leave our bags at the airport and get them later, but he said that with heightened security we couldn’t. So, on to our fourth security check of the day! This time no one lost their mind so we made it through without incident. We headed down to our gate and staked out a table and chairs near a charging station. The kids were starting to get into it with each other and were all exhausted so it was a long wait. And every time Brian walked away for something David lost his mind. It was great fun. We finally boarded, and this time we were back on a Dreamliner plane with in-seat entertainment! Matthew and Caroline sat together and across the aisle from Lily and I. My mom was in front of us, my dad was in front of her, and then Brian and David were together. This flight was almost four hours long, and David did not do well. I think at this point he was beyond exhausted, the TV did nothing to distract him, and he pretty much cried for most of the flight. We tried one of the tricks that we used with Lily – I took David, and then he realized that being with daddy would be way better so when I handed him back he would be so happy to be with Daddy that he stopped crying. Yeah, didn’t work. He just got even more mad that he was with me and couldn’t settle down. My dad tried holding him, and that helped for a little bit but then the crying started again. I think he finally fell asleep for about 30 minutes and then woke up crying again. Poor Brian was exhausted and frustrated and just couldn’t wait to get off the plane! Matthew and Caroline both fell asleep on the flight, and were not happy when we had to wake them up to get off.
Eventually the flight did end, and we bolted out of there as fast as possible. One more flight to go from Houston to Tampa. Our layover wasn’t long, but all of the kids were tired and crying on and off. We had to cross the airport and they were not having it. We decided that sugar would surely help things, and got them cinnamon rolls at Cinnabon. We gave them each a bite to get them to the gate and were able to board the plane quickly. This time I sat with Caroline, Brian was across the aisle with Matthew and David, and Baba and Lily were in front of me. I cut each cinnamon roll up for the kids and that kept them happy. The last flight was short and sweet. Matthew played with Brian’s phone, Caroline watched a movie on the laptop, David fell asleep (hallelujah!) and Lily had a great time with Baba. When we landed, we had been traveling for a total of 28 hours and I think we each slept for maybe 3 of them. We were all exhausted and beyond ecstatic to be home!
When we got off the airport tram we were greeted with huge yellow banners and the smiling faces of our friends welcoming us home! I knew that they would be there, but seeing them all was so amazing and overwhelming that I couldn’t stop the waterworks. I’m pretty sure I was uttering half nonsense because I was so tired that I couldn’t form sentences, but I think I was pretty adamant about never going back to China again or ever boarding another plane. We hugged, talked, I cried, we said goodbye to my parents and then we got in our van to head home. Lily was a pretty terrible car rider and I was fearful that David would be too since seatbelts are new and not his favorite thing. We translated that this was his special seat and Lily would show him how to ride in it, and then had him watch Lily buckle up. It didn’t work. He didn’t like it and started crying. He continued to cry until he finally fell asleep. He didn’t wake up when we got home so we just put him in his bed and hoped for the best! Brian and I got the other kids in bed and finally went to sleep ourselves around 12:30. There’s no place like home!